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Movie software company Vista is Hi-Tech company of the year due to global ambition

Friday 20th May 2016

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Listed film software and analytics firm Vista Group International has won the PwC Hi-Tech company of the year in the annual Hi-Tech Awards with judges saying it truly had “worldwide potential”.

Vista may argue that potential has already been met given it now provides software to over 4,000 cinemas in more than 60 countries and has 400-plus staff in eight offices globally.

It was founded in 1996 after chief executive Murray Holdaway and commercial and legal director Brian Cadzow initially entered into a 50:50 joint venture with film exhibitor Village to develop a cinema ticketing system for its multi-screen theatres and later bought it out with a bunch of other shareholders.

Vista dual-listed on the NZX/ASX in August 2014 raising $92 million in an initial public offering. Its market capitalisation since then has catapulted to $470 million from $187 million or from $2.35 to $5.85 per share on the NZX.

On its website’s front page, the group, which comprises 10 businesses providing software solutions to the film industry, has a map outlining its customer footprint. The same map adorns a wall in its Auckland offices and while there’s still a few gaps – Africa, Scandinavia, some parts of Europe – it’s always aimed for world domination.

Its global market share in the large cinema market has grown to 38 percent, up 15 percent in the past six years.

Award judges said Vista had demonstrated strong growth with a well thought out and tailored product and market knowledge. “They have a great management team that hasn’t been afraid to go hard to secure deals around the world,” the judges said.

More than a billion cinema tickets are processed each year through its core product, Vista Cinema. Its other businesses also draw in small cinema exhibitors and distributors by offering head office administration, online ticketing, loyalty clubs, box office analysis, and mobile apps for staff and patrons. 

It has been on the acquisition trail, with deals this year including a 50 percent investment in UK-based Powster, which provides movie websites and marketing platforms to film studios and distributors, and buying 100 percent of movie guide Flicks NZ and Australia.

This month Vista signed up its second large-scale chain in China – Jinyi International Cinemas which has 138 cinema sites in southern and eastern China.

Revenue in the 2015 financial year was up 39 percent to $65.4 million while net profit increased $1 million to $9 million. In an investor update this month Vista said it expected to increase its cash balance by between $30 million to $40 million through its Vista China deal announced in March.

Biejing Weying Technology Co (WePaio) is coming in as a partner in Vista China to help secure the group’s position in the China film market where box office revenue is forecast to overtake the US by next year.

The deal announced in March is still subject to regulatory approval and WePaio being satisfied with due diligence on Vista China which is nearly completed.

Under the deal, WePaio is taking a 2 percent stake in the Vista Group, acquiring existing shares in Vista China for cash and subscribing for new shares to provide capital growth to that business. In return for Vista providing a long-term distribution agreement for all the group’s software to Vista China, it receives $30 million from WePaio's investment in that company, an up-front licence, and maintenance fees in year one. In year two it’s expected to get $8 million for WePaio’s investment in Vista Group and up-front fees and then on-going maintenance fees from year four onwards and an equity accounted interest in Vista China.

Shareholders will start to reap the benefit of Vista’s growth from the 2016 financial year when it will start paying dividends for the first time since listing – of around 30 percent to 50 percent of net profit subject to growth opportunities and capital expenditure requirements.

Another big winner at the awards was cloud video production service, 90 Seconds, which took out both the IBM Most Innovative Company award and the ATEED Best Technology Solution for the Creative Sector award. Judges described it as the Uber and AirBnB of video production as it has developed a disruptive scalable model with global aspirations.

Other winners were:

2016 Flying Kiwis and inductees into the Tait Communications Hi-Tech Hall of Fame: Katherine Corich, Sam Morgan

Fronde Hi-Tech Young Achiever: Danu Abeysuriya, CEO of Rush Digital

Qual IT Best Technology Solution for the Public Sector: Silverstripe

Callaghan Innovation Maori Innovation: Precision Seafood Harvesting

Duncan Cotterill: Innovative Software Product: Movio

Endace Innovative Hardware Product: Aeroqual

Vocus Communications Innovative Services: Flick Electric

NZTE Most Innovative Agritech Product: Outpost Central

Quick Circuit Innovative Mobile: Serato

NZ Venture Investment Fund Hi-Tech Start-up company: Figured

Coretex Emerging company: Aranz Medical

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